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Custom Wheels at SouthWest Bicycles

Here at SouthWest Bicycles, we believe in the superiority of hand-built wheels. All of the wheels we build and install are backed by decades of experience, a high standard of personalized service and the best warranty available. If you struggle with braking spokes on your factory wheels, stop by and talk to our wheel builder. Our hand-built wheels will end your troubles.

For the inquisitive, below are descriptions of how a SouthWest Hand-Built wheel and a Machine-Built wheel are created.

Construction of a Hand-Built Wheel

A hand-built wheel comes to life from a collection of precision parts at the hands of a skilled artisan - Clarke Stough. Building wheels is considered one of the higher callings of a bicycle mechanic, typically only learned after several years in the business and perfected over a lifetime. Not every mechanic is a wheel builder. Every wheel builder is very proud of the practical works of functional art he creates in his methodical process.


Before wheel building actually begins, proper steps are taken to ensure the process will go smoothly. After the parts have been collected and measured, Clarke calculates the precise length of spoke necessary for your wheel. Guessing spoke length or "coming close" is not acceptable. Clarke will cut spokes to proper length unless using a specialty spoke that is ordered to length. Next, spoke threads are lubricated with a spoke prep.  This  allows the spoke nipple to move freely so tensioning and truing are easier, and after building the wheel, the spoke prep "hardens" and serves to keep the spoke from loosening. Finally, the nipple seats in the rim are coated with oil to further ease in the building process and make it easier to true the wheels years in the future.


With materials prepped, the spokes are then laced from hub to rim and lightly tensioned. Gradual increases in spoke tension are expertly applied until there is sufficient shape and structure to begin truing the wheel. At no point in the tensioning is the structural integrity of the rim ever compromised for the sake of time—the rim stays near a perfect circle the entire time. The truing process continues with the wheel in a truing stand, which measures lateral and radial run-out to close tolerances. The spoke tensions are adjusted very minutely and precisely and measured with a special tensiometer to get a wheel that is perfectly round and ready to ride.


Every hand-built wheel we build for resale or install comes with our exclusive 2-year warranty against spoke breakage (alloy nipples excluded). This is the best warranty in the business and your odds of needing it are slim.

Production of a Machine-Built Wheel


Many manufacturers and shops use and sell machine-built wheels. A machine built wheel, like those seen on almost all production bicycles in the world, goes through a very brutal process in its construction. Rims and spokes are subjected to forces of a volume-driven piece of equipment that wreaks havoc on the circular integrity of a perfectly good rim. During this automated process, each wheel has its spokes systematically installed around its perimeter at a prescribed tension. The rim, which started as a nearly perfect circle, temporarily takes the shape of an egg. This egg shape is drawn back into a circle when all of the spokes have been installed and fully tensioned.


The ovalizing that occurs during construction has a lasting effect that makes a production wheel less serviceable down the road. (Pun intended.) A machine-built wheel might work well right out of the box, but will suffer broken spokes and have truing problems relatively quickly. Often, around one year of use is when these problems arise. What does this mean to the owner of such a wheel? It means more inconvenient roadside problems, more trips to the repair shop and a general lack of trust in your machine.

What to do

When your bike’s original wheels begin to be more trouble than they are worth, consider purchasing a wheel that was born and nurtured to life by a true professional at SouthWest Bicycle.  We stand behind them with an industry leading warranty, so you can ride with confidence and reliability for many years to come.

Conact us at 623.412.3150 or email for a custom quote